From the Family Vault: Mana Contemporary Exhibits the Pellizzi Collection

Heather Corcoran
Oct 17, 2014 3:24PM

Since adding to its arsenal a dynamic multi-purpose art complex, in addition to its original art-storage facility, the massive Mana Contemporary space in Jersey City has become a new mecca for art just west of the Hudson River. It now includes exhibition halls, studios, a residency program, a dance program, a museum, and a print shop, among other features. In its latest show “Francesco Clemente, George Condo, Chuck Connelly, Julio Galán, and Daniel Lezama in the Pellizzi Family Collections,” which runs through March 2015, Mana has tapped into its dual mission with an exhibition that reveals the collection of anthropologist, curator, critic, and collector Francesco Pellizzi—taking more than 100 museum-quality works out of storage and putting them on display for all to see.

Spanning three floors of the New Jersey space, the exhibition focuses on Pellizzi’s close ties to the avant-garde neo-expressionist “new image” painters that emerged from New York’s 1980s art scene. 

Among them is Francesco Clemente, whose large oil-on-canvas works fill Mana’s sixth floor gallery. The works highlight Clemente’s interest in imbuing the human form with spiritual imagery and fables from cultures around the world—a theme that recalls Pellizzi’s early collections of tribal art objects, as well as work by artists dealing with the more romantic, mystical impulses of Surrealism. Below, the fifth floor gallery celebrates another modern icon with a singular voice: George Condo. Here, Condo’s idiosyncratic, stylized characters seem to offer a foil to the more cerebral attitudes of the decade, despite their own depth. 

The first floor of the space presents three lesser-known artists to emerge from the scene—Chuck Connelly, Julio Galán, and Daniel Lezama—in conversation. Connelly, an American artist, and Galán and Lezama, from Mexico, each explore a sense of personal mythology. Connelly’s thickly painted reductions have been referred to as “hallucinations,” while Galán’s combinations of Catholic and pre-Colombian Mexican imagery have drawn references to Frida Kahlo, and Lezama’s reinventions of Mexican icons provide a hauntingly surrealist spin on realism. Together, this rare glimpse into the curatorial mind of one of the great living art patrons reframes a decade ripe for reevaluation.

Heather Corcoran